What to Do If You’ve Just Been Diagnosed as Bipolar
Being diagnosed as bipolar is a scary thing. It can happen in a number of ways, but if you’re like most of us, you probably didn’t know what was wrong for a long time, then you were misdiagnosed and then sometime later, you got the moniker of “bipolar”. Few of us go right from episode to bipolar diagnosis.
But regardless of how you got here, what do you do next?
What Happens When Your Doctor Tells You You’re Bipolar
Likely you’ll be stunned. Or upset. Or angry. Or something. You’ve just been handed a big bit of news, so an emotional reaction is to be expected. That’s OK. Try to listen to what your doctor has to say (it helps to have someone with you), go home and think about it for a while. You don’t have to do anything that moment.*
What Happens When You Get Home
Once the bipolar diagnosis hits home for you, you’ll probably grieve. Being diagnosed with bipolar is the end of something. It is also the start of something else, but as when most things end, we tend to grieve. This is OK too. No one expects you to get a life-altering diagnosis and then return about your normal daily routine. Give yourself some time and space.
What Happens Next
After the initial shock wears off and you feel a little more even-keeled, the real work begins: your education. Now you have to learn. You have to learn about bipolar disorder, you have to learn about yourself, you have to learn about bipolar treatments. There’s a lot to know. Break it down into bite-sized chunks. Start with the basics. Don’t get overwhelmed. There is time.
And Get Help. This isn’t the kind of thing you want to do alone. Lean on the people that love you. They can help you with research. They will want to know what’s wrong and how they can help. You can learn together.
The Doctor’s Appointment After the Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis
Once you’ve digested a bit, you'll probably have questions – and if you don’t, you should have. Here are some things to think about asking your doctor about bipolar disorder:
- How did you determine I am bipolar?
- What specific symptoms lead you to believe I am bipolar?
- What can you tell me about my disorder? What type of bipolar is it?
- Is there any other possible diagnosis?
- Are there any symptoms I’ve reported that don’t fall into a bipolar diagnosis?
Why do you care about that stuff? Because doctors aren’t always right. And regardless as to whether the diagnosis of bipolar disorder is accurate, it helps you to know specifically what the bipolar really explains. If you pull out all your hair, you might still be bipolar, but that diagnosis alone might not explain the hair-pulling.
And then, of course, you'll want to know:
- What are my bipolar treatment options?
- What else besides medication can I do?
- What resources do you recommend?
It depends on your doctor, but they may not give you “options” unless you ask. They may give you the one thing they think you should do and not mention the rest. You might be interested in knowing more than one thing, however, so you can be more involved in your bipolar treatment decisions. There are a lot of options in front of you, make sure you hear about them (5 Depression / Bipolar Treatments You Might Not Know About).
By now, you are likely overwhelmed again. That’s OK. It happens. This is one of the hardest parts. Really. Just try to listen and write down the information if you can, so you can refer to it later. It can be hard to remember everything, believe me.
And you still don’t have to make a decision. Again, take your time. Don’t let anyone pressure you into treatment you don’t want. Your doctor doesn’t have to take the pills – you do. You should feel comfortable before you head down a road.
Doesn't This Seem Like a Slow Way to Get Treatment for Bipolar Disorder?
If this all seems a little protracted, well, maybe it is; I don’t know. What I do know is that bipolar diagnosis and treatment is serious business and something you need to think clearly about, and that clarity takes time. You might have to skip ahead a few steps and get into treatment immediately. That’s OK. But the above questions still should be asked, even if you have to do it down the line.
Next time I’ll talk about how to select a treatment for bipolar disorder.
* This is assuming non-emergent scenarios. If you’re in an emergency then time, obviously, isn’t on your side and neither is your ability to think and question rationally.
Tracy, N. (2010, August 2). What to Do If You’ve Just Been Diagnosed as Bipolar, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/08/what-to-do-if-youve-just-been-diagnosed-as-bipolar
Author: Natasha Tracy
That's brilliant and hilarious. Thanks for the laugh. We all need to be able to take it not so seriously sometimes.
I hope you get the help you need and that it works for you.
- Natasha Tracy
Regards from Mexico
I am 30 years old and was recently diagnosed bipolar. Contrary to what the article says,, I was quite thrilled when the doctor told me and my parents. I finally had someone confirming that the way I felt and thought all my life was not "normal". I accepted the news much, MUCH better than my mom and have had help from my parents and friends.
Well, I just wanted to share my experience with all of you, and thank you for this website, I just found it on Pinterest.
Kind regards from Mexico! :)
Ps. Stay strong.
I was diagnosed last spring and it has been one hell of a roller coaster. I was diagnosed after a manic episode that landed me in the hospital after which I was referred to a psychiatrist whom I did not like at all. He would not listen to anything I said or answer the questions that I had. I absolutely hated Abilify because of the side effects but his response was bipolar people often don't want to take their medicine and I should keep with it. I found another doctor and I am doing pretty well with the new medicine but I am now running into another problem. I don`t know how to help my loved ones deal with my diagnosis, especially my fiance. He just has questions that I cannot answer like what the difference between normal moods and my illness are. I am not sure what to tell him because I do not know myself. I don`t know how to help him deal with it when I am barley hanging on myself, if that makes any sense. Any thoughts on how I can help my loved ones understand and accept my diagnosis?
"Knowing that the pain is coming is like waiting on the tracks for a freight train"
"Knowing then, that I will get better, and I will get worse is quite a challenge". Thanks for putting into words the absolute confusion and anger I have for this illness.
Thank-you so much for taking the time to comment. Yours is my favorite comment of the day because if I can do anything it's empower others to take control of their own mental health. You're an inspiration in that you've discovered this so young.
Good luck with you, you deserve the best, so insist on it :)
I am in my mid adolescents and have recently been diagnosed as bipolar, and I would just like to say thank you. I felt that I didn't receive alot of information along with the diagnosis and your publications have helped me understand the condition more. However, in particular with this post I discovered I felt angry, angry towards the professionals, but in part I may be to blame. Because I am under eighteen, when I was prescribed medication it was simply handed to my carers and I felt like I lost control of a condition in which I already felt I wasn't in control of to begin with. In additon, I felt I just wasn't getting listened to, for example I explained to my p.doc that I didn't like the seroquel I was prescribed because I didn't like the side effects and felt they weren't working. But he just said I should just carry on with them. And I just accepted this setup, but reading your blogs I realised that it's okay to ask questions about treatment and diagnosis etc, rather than just think that they know best because they are professionals and their word is final. I've recognized that I can be in contol of this disorder, so hopefully I will get some answers soon. Thank you again
Yes, I agree, the wording of questions does matter. I'm partial to medical wording because it's clear and that's what doctors respond to, however, that's not going to be an option for everyone. I think as long as you are absolutely clear about the answers and what your doctor is saying to you, that's what matters. You might have to ask 10 questions instead of 1, but as long as you leave with what you need, you've done your job.